‘Forbes’ Ranks 25 Highest-Paid Musicians

Forbes’ list of The World’s 25 Highest-Paid Musicians includes country stars Taylor Swift, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney.

Dr. Dre leads the list with $110 million in pretax earnings between May 2011 and May 2012. His popular Beats headphones helped him bop to the top. Coming in second and third are touring forces Roger Waters with $88 million, and Elton John with $80 million.

Swift was Nashville’s top grossing artist, coming in at No. 8 with $57 million, a tie with Sir. Paul McCartney. Swift’s touring revenue earned her a reported $1 million per night in addition to revenue from marketing partnerships with CoverGirl and others. She also pulled in income from album sales and publishing for writing her own songs.

Keith tied for 10th place with 18-year-old Justin Bieber, each bringing in $55 million. Keith’s revenue is due to his Ford sponsorship, successful I Love This Bar And Grill restaurant chain, as well as label, management, and publishing interests.

Chesney came in No. 17 on the list with $44 million earned mostly from 48 tour stops in the U.S. and Canada, and Corona and Hooters sponsorships. His album, Welcome To The Fishbowl, was also released this year.

Methodology: Forbes estimates are based on total earnings from May 2011 to May 2012—the amount of money an act makes from record sales, touring, endorsements, merchandise sales and other ventures before subtracting management fees, legal costs and taxes (which can gobble up the bulk of a big payday). The totals were compiled with the help of data from Pollstar, RIAA and others, as well as interviews with industry insiders including concert promoters, lawyers, managers, agents and, in some cases, the musicians themselves.


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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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